Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Duke and Duchess of Tacky

Tonight, first hour of prime time, PBS airs a special:
Elmo: Hi, Miss Queen Latifah.
Queen Latifah: Hey, Elmo. Hi, it's so good to see you.
Elmo: It's so good to see you too.  Well what brings you here to Sesame Street?
Queen Latifah: Well I'm meeting up with some friends who've been through some pretty tough times.  They were all hurt in one way or another while serving in the military.  And you know those kinds of changes can be really tough on a family. 
Little Girl A: When I saw my dad's legs it made me feel a little bit nervous.
Little Girl B: He doesn't have no legs and one arm.
Dad B: At first I didn't think she wanted to hug me -- because she was scared of me maybe. That hug made me feel so happy and complete inside that it made me feel like I didn't really lose anything at all. 
Dad C: When I was first injured I did struggle for awhile with the idea that I may be chasing this little kid here around on crutches or in a wheel chair because I didn't know what my future held so I was, I was nervous.  I was afraid it was going to change the way I was going to be a father.
Son D: I was a little worried that he was injured but I don't care if he has his whole body gone as long as he's still living.
Daughter E: I heard Mama was talking.  She said that our daddy was injured.  I was scared because I didn't know if he was actually going to come home or if he would just passed away.
Mom E:You know it was really hard for them to comprehend what had happened in Iraq, let alone a burn injury.
Dad E: I was in the denial stage and I didn't want to accept that I had a problem. Took awhile for me to get the pride to go away.   And what it was that made me let the pride go was I was tearing my family apart.
Mom E: To see your kids and your husband have to go through that is hard.
Queen Latifah: My father actually suffered from PTSD.  He was a veteran of Vietnam.  I mean it was very challenging for us too as a family so I can kind of relate to what the kids have gone to.  Luckily, he sought treatment, just like you guys did, and it really made a big difference because it helped him to recognize you know what was going on.
Dad D: You're not as macho as you thought you are and that you're a US soldier and you're a fighting machine.  This particular fight you can't do alone.  You need, you need that family. 
Elmo: Is that your daddy's new hand?
Son D: Yeah.
Elmo: Well can Elmo see it?  Wow.  Wow.  Look at that, it's like a robot hand.
John Mayer: It's really important that families talk about the change and say what's on their minds. 
Elmo: Oh, you mean (singing) "Say what you need to say."
[John Mayer begins performing "Say"]
Queen Latifah: Please join us for Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change and meet some parents and kids who are pulling together.
The special airs tonight.  It's a Sesame Street special, it is geared towards childen and one of the few programs thus far -- all this way into the Iraq and Afghansitan Wars -- to note the effects on the families, especially young children.  For example, a wounded veteran who suffered from extreme depression for over a year shares his story as does his son who explains, "He'd be laying there like a lump on a couch.  I'd go upstairs and get mad."  Again, that's PBS tonight.  First hour of prime time.  (Unless your local stations are playing it at a different time or not at all.  Check your local listings.)  The challegned/disabled community and their families rarely get coverage.  Their ranks have increased due to two wars this decade. 
Another rarely covered topic was given a full hour on NPR today.  USA Today's Susan Page filled in as guest host on The Diane Rehm Show and, for the second hour, explored the topic of sexual assaults in the military with guest Helen Benedict and whack-job Kaye Whitley making a brief appearance that was as fact-free as her Congressional appearances are.
Susan Page: Since March 2003, nearly 200,000 American women in Iraq -- more than in any other war since WWII.  They are participating in combat more than ever before but they can feel isolated in a military culture that seems hostile to females.  Helen Benedict is a novelist and journalist who interviewed forty soldiers and veterans about the struggles and challenges they experienced in Iraq.  Their stories are part of a new book titled The Lonely Soldier.  
Helen Benedict's The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq is out today, published by Beacon Press.  Benedict explained the book started when she attended a townhall with veterans discussing their experiences and all the ones up front were men.  She found a female soldier at the back who explained her experiences serving in Iraq.  Women service members and veterans groups allowed Benedict to find others who wanted to share their stories.  Liar who needs to be fired Kaye Whitley appeared briefly on the show as a call-in and let's deal with that liar first off.
People seem unaware that Kaye Whitley helps no one.  She does her soft purr and creates 'facts' as she goes along and offers cover for the sexual predators.  That's what she does.  If that surprises you, you need to own up to the fact that you haven't been paying attention.  In July of 2008, she refused -- REFUSED -- to testify before Congress.  When she finally did appear (and you can check out this Feminist Wire Daily News item from September 12, 2008 if you were caught napping when that was going on) she refused -- REFUSED -- to provide an answer as to what allowed her to legally refuse.  Kaye Whitley NEEDS TO BE FIRED.  Is that clear?  She is paid by the US tax payer.  Barack Obama should have immediately fired her upon taking office -- and it's a sign of how useless so many 'leaders' are that they didn't ask for this easy, quick (and probably cosmetic) change to take place.  She insults victims who testify before Congress by getting in little digs after they've offered their testimony.  She makes up figures and facts as she goes along.  Congress needs to confront her -- each time she provides testimony -- with her previous testimony because the two never, ever mesh.  She's a liar.  And she can sell make up door to door and be as big a liar as she wants to be.  But right now she's the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and, in that capacity, her lies are hurting a lot of people.
Susan Page asked the little liar about the increase in reported assaults and, being the liar she is, Kaye Whitley tried to assert that there was no increase in actual assaults, it was just that there was so much more comfort these days with reporting . . . thanks to the work she (Whitley) had done.  That woman is a menace. 
And so is the idiotic PSA she's so thrilled with.  Prepare to be disgusted in mere seconds.
Male voice: My strength is for defending my nation and my fellow service members.
Female voice: Preventing sexual assault is part of that duty.
Male voice: So when I saw my buddy's date was drunk, I told him, ask her when she's sober.
Female voice: When some guy went way too far with my friend, I got her out of there.
Male voice: Sexual assault can be prevented when friends and co-workers look out for each other.
Female voice: If you see a situation headed in the wrong direction, do your duty.
Male voice: Say something, do something.
Female voice: Get help.
Male voice: Find out more at
Note, it's not when a man goes too far, it's when he goes "way too far."  Hopefully, Whitley will explain the difference between the two.  And the first offense was probably "ask her when she's sober."  Because surely sexual assaults are fine and dandy when someone's sober.  "Do you mind if I sexually assult you?"  When drunk, a woman is so apt to immediately say, "Yes, please sexually assault me."  Right?  Because sexual assault is nothing but 'good times' gone bad, right?  That's what that insulting and appalling PSA is saying and Kaye Whitley's proud of it? 
Whitley then wanted to bring up "restricted reporting" and forgot to note that it was a pilot program.  She also -- yet again -- revealed how stupid she is, how inept she is and how fired her ass needs to be immediately.  Pimping her stupid "restricted reporting" program, she claimed that if you were in the corporate world and were sexually assaulted, you could choose whether or not to participate and "certainly" no one would phone the CEO about it.  If a sexual assault takes place at any corporation, everyone knows about for legal reasons.  Kaye Whitley is an idiot.  We could go on and on about how she twsited reality to convey a false impression.  It's past time she was fired.  She should have been canned on day one of the new administration for her refusal to testify to Congress.  Her job does not permit her to make such a refusal. The tax payers pays her salary and when Congress wants her front and center, her ass plops down before them.  That's how it works. 
She praised her stupid "restricted reporting" program insisting it was a "success" and that "the reason I say that" is because, since 2005, she's had "over 2,500" victims come forward ("and last year alone over 700").  How many of those went on to file charges?  That's the question she refuses to answer when Congress asks her.  That was the point of the "restricted reporting" option -- how it was sold.  It would provide counseling and work the victim towards filing charges.  Kaye never provides an answer -- even when asked by Congress -- how many "restricted reporting" have gone on to file charges.  And "over 2500"?  That's not a lot.  Especially when she was claiming before Congress January 28th of this year that 1,896 was the number.  Again, her numers change at random -- based apparently on whom she's speaking to. When she walked that 1,896 number out before Congress, US House Rep Niki Tsongas pointed out, "It means a significant number of people who committed these assaults are not accountable." Whitley was too busy whining to that Congressional hearing (chaired by US House Rep Susan Davids) that reporting rape (not using restricted reporting -- and this was for rape, that was the topic, not sexual assault which can be attempted and can be verbal, this was reporting actual rape) "tears a unit apart."  You want to explain where this woman's loyalties are because anyone who, interviewed about the huge increase in rape, that would want to whine about how the unit is harmed doesn't need to be the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.  It's Sexual Assault Awareness month and there's no indication that Kaye Whitely has any; however, firing her might increase awareness nation-wide.
When Kaye left the show, the broadcast improved tremendously and similar effects would no doubt happen at the Pentagon.  When Kaye Whitley was gone, Susan Page asked Helen Benedict for her take on Kaye and her 'efforts' at the Pentagon?
Helen Benedict: One is she said that even if you report your assault anonymously, they call "restricted," the  commander is still told that there was an assault. And the thing is that platoons are very enclosed, gossipy, hiearchical organizations and everybody knows everybody's business so what this means is that it's very, very likely that she [the victim] won't in fact be anonymous and everyone will know exactly who it is.  And women are aware of this so that's enormously intidimating.  The other thing that worries me is how much can an ad work to really change behavior?  I mean, we've seen that sometimes it works better than others but, uhm, we've had sexual prevention classes in the military for quite a long time now, we've had the unrestricted reporting -- I mean the anonymous reporting since 2005.  There's no evidence that sexual assault is going down. And if the numbers of reporting go up you never know if it's actually more reporting or more rapes.  The culture has to change and advertising alone isn't enough.  I think all these steps are good, but they're not enough.  I would like to see anybody who's ever found guilty of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, kicked out of the military altogether -- not given some demotion or slap on the wrist or letter in his file, which happens all too often.  Anybody who has a record of domestic  or sexual violence against women should never be admitted into the military -- some have under the moral waivers.  I'd like to see civilian hotlines put in all the bases at home so that a woman who has been assaulted can call a civilian rape crisis center, not even have to deal with the military at all.  And I would like to see a culture where it's really understood that rape is a war crime just like at war  whether you're raping civilians of the enemy or  your own kind, it's a war crime.  It's that serious. 
And we'll get to some current problems but Page and Benedict also discussed some what ifs and we'll note this section: 
Susan Page: You know some people would look at the experience, the difficult experience many women have had in this combat situation in Iraq and say, 'Well okay, maybe women should not be put in this situation, maybe women should not be in the military in these combat support roles that put them in these isolated situations.'  What would you say to that argument?
Helen Benedict:  I'd say it's like the argument that was once used women-shouldn't-vote, women-shouldn't-be-fire-fighters, or teachers, or professors.  We've always had to fight against the sort of predjudice, [in order] to be treated equally, but women are adults, they should be able to have any job they want.  Not everybody would choose to have that kind of role -- just as not every man would -- but it should be up to women to choose what jobs they want, not up to the government or anyone else.
Susan Page: Well let's do the reverse side.  What if there were no restrictions on what women could do in the military?  What do you think the effect of that would be?
Helen Benedict: I think if -- if the Pentagon lifted its ban on ground combat it would help women win respect and stop this perpetuation of seeing them as second class soldiers.  I think it would have a large effect on how they were treated by their male comrades because at the root of every assault and harassment is lack of respect. And if the message comes down from the top "Yes, this is a second class soldier. No, there is no reason to respect her,"  then things aren't going to change.
Now some realities right now.  Amanda Hess (Washington City Paper) notes how difficult it is for women on bases to get emergency contraception and quotes Nancy Northup of Reproductive Health Reality Check explaining, "It's excluded from the list of what military facilities, including the primary stores where families shop, are required to stock.  That can be particularly challenging for women and families who are based overseas and rely solely on those facilities to buy over-the-counter drugs."  Corpus Christi, Texas' KRISTV reports a 29-year-old "military police officer" is a suspect in the "aggravated sexual assault" on "a 14-year-old Aransas Pass girl".  Virginia's WDBJ7 Roanoke News reports Stephen J. Lloyd, 21-years-old, is in jail for suspicion "of sexually assaulting another cadet".  Mike Gangloff (Roanoke Times) adds that allegations involve a female and states she's 20-year-old and has stated she was raped.  Sunday Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reported that Atlanta police had taken Lavell Tyrone McNutt into custody under suspicion over a recent series of sexual assaults in Atlanta.  McNutt raped two women while he was a West Point cadet and faced a court-martial in 1976.  Despite pleading guilty he was given only nine years -- five for one rape, four for another -- and the judge ordered that the two sentence run consecutively.  This week IVAW's Jen Hogg joined with Veterans and Servicemembers Project at Urban Justice Center's director Rachel Natelson and Hogg's co-founder of Claiming Justice Anuradha Bhagwati in addressing the issue of sexual assault in a letter to the New York Times which noted:
Violence against servicewomen will continue to exist so long as sexual assault is treated as an internal military mater.  
As it did in the aftermath of the Tailhook and Aberdeen Proving Ground scandals, Congress has lately renewed its demand that the military imporve the matter in which it polices itself.  But why should the military be trusted to police itself at all?        
Under military policy, the disposition of harassment and assault cases is left entirely to the discretion of unit commanders, who alone decide on the need for corrective action.  Since service members are exempt from civilian workplace harassment laws, the military is shielded from precisely the sort of outside judicial review that could act as a real deterrent.   
This lawlessness has fostered a culture of underprosecution in which only 38 percent of substantiated rape cases even go to trial. 
Surely these numbers prove that it's time to stop trusting the fox to protect the henhouse. 
VETWOW is an organization for female military veterans and RAAIN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an organization serving all victims of sexual assault (civilian and military, male and female) -- RAAIN's toll free number is 1 (800) 656-HOPE or 1 (800) 656-4673.  
Helen Benedict said rape should be treated like a War Crime and, if it were, that might be the saddest thing of all.  That's said because what happened to Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, was a War Crime and yet most outlets, including the New York Times, refused to print her name or run a photo (USA Today and the Washington Post were two exceptions -- the Associated Press repeatedly did a strong job portraying Abeer as a person and not a statistic or, worse, an 'other'). The 14-year-old girl was gang-raped at her home by US soldiers while one US soldier shot her parents and her five-year-old sister dead in the next room.  Then that soldier joined the others and allegedly shot her after he raped her.  He then allegedly attempted to set Abeer's body on fire to destroy the evidence.  When that didn't work, they just made sure 'insurgents' would be blamed for their actions, then they returned back to the base where -- after disposing of the blood-stained clothes -- they grilled chicken wings and proceeded to get drunk while celebrating.  All the US soldiers have confessed to their role in the conspiracy and rape (two soldiers confessed to their rape, others to various parts of the conspiracy where they planned to do this to Abeer and her family) except one: Steven D. Green.  The others, still in the military, faced an August 2006 court-martial and then trials that were completed by last year.  All fingered Steven D. Green as the ringleader.  They stated Green came up with the plan(Abeer's brother told reporters that Green stroked his sister's face and had long made his sister uncomfortable), that he shot and killed the sister, the parents and then Abeer, that he participated in the gang-rape and that he set Abeer's corpse on fire.  Steven D. Green has, through is attorneys, maintained he was innocent.  How 'innocent' the world will soon see since his attorneys have been attempting to navigate an insanity plea with the court.  The last Friday in June 2006, Green, who had already been discharged from the military before the War Crimes came to light, was apprehended by federal authorities in Kentucky.   After many delays (including a postponement for a quilting fair -- that is not a joke, they actually postponed last year's trial for a quilting fair) Green's trial is now scheduled to begin April 27th at the United States District Court Western District of Kentucky.  April 6th jury selection will begin.  They are anticipating media interest (after the media silence on Abeer, that's an interesting prediction) and Judge Thomas B. Russell issued media guidelines March 26th including that a media room would be set aside and laptops and cell phones would be allowed there, they also restricted the press to doing all interviews outside the courthouse ("Interviews may be conducted on the sidewalk on Broadway across from the courthouse").  Well maybe they're expecting the international press?  Sunday AFP noted the case: "In another case involving the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her father, mother and younger sister, four soldiers were convicted by a court martial and handed sentences of up to 110 years in prison.  The last defendant, Steven D. Green, is to be tried next month in a civilian court in Paducah, Kentucky and could face the death penalty if convicted."  (AP filed two stories on Green's attempt to make a motion that the prospective jury pool did not contain enough African-Americans.  Green's attorneys filed paperwork today to withdraw that motion -- PDF format warning, here for that paperwork.] And, to be clear, James Barker and Paul Cortez entered guilty pleas, Jesse V. Spielman was convicted and Bryan L. Howard had made a plea agreement.

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